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Shaken Baby Syndrome

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is a severe form of head injury that occurs when a baby or small child is shaken forcibly enough to cause the child's brain to bounce against his or her skull. The bouncing may cause bruising, swelling, and bleeding of the brain, which may lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death.

Shaken baby syndrome is usually the result of non-accidental trauma or child abuse.

Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Signs of shaken baby syndrome may vary from mild and nonspecific to severe and immediately identifiable clinically as head trauma. Some common symptoms of shaken baby syndrome are:

  • changes in behavior
  • irritability
  • lethargy
  • loss of consciousness
  • pale or bluish skin
  • vomiting
  • convulsions

There may also be broken, injured, or dislocated bones and injuries to the neck and spine.

If you believe your baby has been shaken, it is important to tell the doctor that your child was shaken.

Can Shaken Baby Syndrome be Treated?

Yes. Immediate emergency treatment is necessary and usually includes life-sustaining measures such as stopping internal bleeding and relieving increased intracranial pressure.

What is the Prognosis?

Generally, the prognosis for children with shaken baby syndrome is poor. Most will be left with considerable disability. Retinal damage may cause loss of vision. If the child survives, he or she may require lifelong medical care for brain damage injuries such as mental retardation or cerebral palsy.

Complications of Shaken Baby Syndrome

About 25 -30% of children with shaken baby syndrome will die as a result of their injuries. The rest will have lifelong complications. Common complications are brain injuries which can lead to problems with memory cognition, motor functioning, bodily functions, perceptual systems, and speech.

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